There are now less than 100 days until the start of the 2023 college football season, and for Utah, BYU and Utah State, expectations for the upcoming season vary.
The Utes are two-time defending Pac-12 champions and should be a contender again in a heavyweight Pac-12, with players like quarterback Cam Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe leading the way.
The Cougars are entering their first season in the Big 12 conference, and BYU has to do it with a new quarterback under center and a freshman defensive coordinator on the sidelines.
The Aggies, meanwhile, are coming off a season where they played in the playoffs but have a slew of talent to replace, having lost one of the most recurring productions in the nation via the NCAA’s transfer portal.
Those expectations are reflected in Bill Connelly’s post-spring ESPN SP+ rankings, which were updated earlier this month.
Three main factors go into Connelly’s ranking – returning production for a team, his recent recruiting efforts and recent program history.
Connelly further explains that the SP+ ranking “is not about guessing what the AP Top 25 will look like at the end of the year. These are simply power rankings at the start of the offseason based on the information we have been able to gather to date.
What do these rankings say about the 2023 outlook for BYU, Utah and Utah State?
Where does BYU football rank in ESPN’s post-spring SP+ rankings?
- BYU ranks 60th nationally in SP+ metrics, including No. 42 in offense and No. 80 in defense.
- The Cougars trail just one Big 12 team in the SP+ rankings, with Kansas coming in at No. 61.
- Other Big 12 teams closest to BYU in the SP+ rankings include West Virginia (#56), Houston (#53), Cincinnati (#46) and Iowa State (#45). Of those teams, BYU hosts Cincinnati (Sept. 29) and Iowa State (Nov. 11) this season, while playing Kansas (Sept. 23) and West Virginia (Nov. 4).
- There are four Big 12 teams in the SP+ top 25: Texas (#9), Oklahoma (#13), TCU (#20), and Kansas State (#23).
- Ten of the 14 Big 12 teams are in the top 50 of the SP+ rankings, and the average Big 12 team ranking is 37.8 – second among the Power Five conferences, behind the SEC (21.9) and ahead of the Big Ten (38.7).
- BYU ranks 68th nationally for returning production to 60%, according to figures from Connelly. This includes ranking No. 60 in defense (64%) and No. 85 in offense (57%). It’s a stark contrast to last season, when the Cougars ranked second in returning to production.
- Big 12 team Kansas ranks No. 1 nationally in return of production at 85%, per Connelly. This includes 91% return production on offense.
Big 12 teams in the post-spring SP+ rankings
23. State of Kansas.
39. State of Oklahoma.
45. State of Iowa.
56. West Virginia.
Where does Utah football stand in ESPN’s post-spring SP+ rankings?
- Utah ranks 14th nationally in the SP+ rankings, including No. 13 in offense and No. 26 in defense.
- The Utes are ahead of all but two Pac-12 teams, behind only USC (No. 7) and Oregon (No. 11).
- The other Pac-12 teams in the top 25 of the SP+ rankings are Washington (#17) and UCLA (#24). Among Pac-12 teams in the top 25, Utah hosts UCLA (September 23) and Oregon (October 28), while playing USC (October 21) and Washington (November 11).
- Half of the Pac-12 teams are in the top 30 of the SP+ rankings. There is a steep drop after that, with the other six going from California at No. 54 to Colorado at No. 103.
- The average Pac-12 team ranking in the SP+ rankings is 45.5, fourth among Power Five conferences.
- Utah ranks 23rd nationally in production at 71%, according to Connelly’s figures. This includes ranking No. 26 in attack (74%) and No. 41 in defense (68%).
- USC is the best Pac-12 team (and 10th nationally) in production return at 76%, according to Connelly. This includes 78% production return on defense.
Pac-12 teams in post-spring SP+ standings
30. State of Oregon.
58. Washington State.
63. State of Arizona.
Where does Utah State football stand in ESPN’s post-spring SP+ rankings?
- Utah State ranks 116th nationally in the SP+ rankings, including No. 122 in offense and No. 125 in defense.
- The Aggies are ahead of three Mountain West teams, including Colorado State (No. 118), Hawaii (No. 124) and New Mexico (No. 132).
- The highest-ranked MWC teams in the SP+ rankings are Boise State (#62) and Fresno State (#68), the only conference teams in the top 75. Utah State hosts both Boise State (18 November) and Fresno State (October 14) this season, and among the teams ahead of which the Aggies rank, they host Colorado State (October 7) and play New Mexico (November 25).
- Half of the 12 MWC teams are in the top 100 of the SP+ rankings, with an average MWC team ranking of 99.5.
- Utah State, which lost a significant chunk of its roster to the transfer portal this season, ranks 127th nationally in returning production at 41%, according to Connelly’s numbers. This includes ranking No. 122 in attack (41%) and No. 125 in defense (42%).
- Utah State ranked No. 103 for the return of production in the initial SP+ rankings in February, but an additional dozen players entered the transfer portal during the spring transfer window.
- Wyoming is the top team in the Mountain West (and 13th nationally) in production at 74%, according to Connelly. This includes 84% production return on defense.
MWC teams in the post-spring SP+ ranking
62. Boise State.
68. Fresno State.
81. Air Force.
85. San Diego State.
97. State of San Jose.
116. State of Utah.
118. State of Colorado.
132. New Mexico.